A strange thing happened after the Ayr March earlier this year. While talking with a pal I’ve known for years, someone asked if I was “the author.” I wasn’t sure what they meant – until I followed their gaze behind me, where there was a stall selling copies of a book. I was simultaneously flattered, yet a bit perturbed, because there was a hint of an accusation in there, a sort of “oh aye, you hawkin’ yer wares tae indyfolk, then?”
The relationship of money to politics is a tricky one, and a very sore spot for many.
Just look at David Clegg:
It’s actually difficult for me to think of political passions which have been less successfully monetised than Scottish Independence. Is Mr Clegg seriously going to argue that worldwide political passions like trade unionism, socialism, feminism, environmentalism, anti-capitalism, & every rights movement known to humanity are not as “successfully monetised” as Scottish Independence? I doubt it: in all likelihood, he’s simply trolling, as it’s all the attention his dying newspaper can muster following the humiliating dismissal of The Vow by the UK they served so loyally.
The Definitely Grassroots & Not At All Astroturf campaign for Scotland to continue being part of the UK, for instance, not only vastly outspent its opposite number thanks to incredibly rich benefactors during the first Scottish Independence Referendum, it still has coffers swelling from the donations of incredibly rich benefactors even though they’re determined to stop an independence referendum from actually happening. Conservatism is practically defined by how much money its adherents can wrest from the world. And let’s not even talk about the UK leaving the EU, which promises to make veritable dragon’s hoards for its already Smaugian advocates.
I’m terrible at asking folk for money, even commissions for art or writing: I even used to haggle the price downwards. Years at College and University studying art couldn’t quite shake the feeling of shame, that I dared to expect payment for art. I felt I was simply doing what was expected of me. Perhaps I feared that if I started thinking of the money seriously, then it would transform my love of art into an obligation – that it would become “just a job.” In time, I understood the importance of balancing payment with art. Money, after all, is a dangerous thing.
A Tai Chi instructor is careful to point out that instruction isn’t their “job”: teaching martial arts must never become your primary source of income. Then, it ceases to be a martial art – it becomes a business. You are not practicing the form, but a service, in exchange for money. There’s of course nothing wrong with business or money – except when you turn something that isn’t a business into one, & still call it what it isn’t. So it is, for me, with art – and with Scottish Independence.
Any number of folk have suggested that I write a book, or a comic, or publish an art collection, about various subjects covered on this blog. Perhaps I should have a fundraiser to boost this site, get a WildernessofPeace Dot Scot domain name, put up a Patreon or Kickstarter or GoFundMe just to cover running costs. Folk like Paul Kavanaugh have, after all, and the correlation between support for independence and pride in our indigenous languages meant that he could also pursue his ambitious Gaelic maps of Scotland. I’ve put in money to many fundraisers over the past five years – major sites, magazines, broadcasters, personal blogs – but I’ve never seriously considered doing one for myself, even if it was ultimately For The Cause. Any time I did make money for independence, like my wee political cartoons, every penny of it went straight to the campaign. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I don’t need to ask for money to continue my blog or my campaigning, so I’m happy to lend some of mine to those who do.
Money, like any fuel, is dangerous, and should be handled with extreme care. If anyone is using the cause of Scottish Independence as a source of revenue to the exclusion & detriment of that cause – and goodness knows opponents of the cause have made plenty of money criticising & defaming it – then it’s a well which we aim to empty as soon as possible. Many have made the argument that some independence supporters – even politicians – are too comfortable. Like the Opposition Party, they can claim the same amount of money as the government, but receive none of the consequences for mistakes. Maybe that’s true for some: when the SNP’s the only game in town, of course some will see opportunity regardless of their personal politics. Me? I’m a pragmatist. I want independence. If that means sacrificing my stubborn ideas over money – and I’ve sacrificed a lot – then it’s freely and willingly given.
Once we are independent, the “monetisers,” whoever they are, will need something else to fill their time & pockets. Luckily enough, the rebirth of an ancient nation in a modern world has countless opportunities for us all to better ourselves.